Saturday, March 15, 2008
There's a rumour that my home poker game is on for tonight. Lord have mercy, we're back in business after a hiatus.
This video shows Tom Cruise singing and dancing at his scientology birthday party. There's some funny comments at Gawker, where this originally appeared.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Bonus Code IGGY on Party Poker
So much to say . . .
MMA at IMG's World Congress of Sports
MMA is in the conversation in a major way for the first time at IMG's World Congress of Sports. Some quotes from the convention floor:
* "The key is to know your consumer and follow your consumer. We've seen a study that shows a young male can identify 10 UFC fighters, but not 10 players on the (St. Louis) Rams." - Tony Ponturo, Vice President of Global Media and Sports Marketing at Anheuser-Busch, on why his company has become involved in the sport.
* "It's a phenomena. It's great to see there's room in this industry for a new sport." - MLS Commissioner Don Garber welcoming the idea of MMA becoming a major force in the sports industry.
* "If we're going to invest in something that (offends) her, we're going to lose an important consumer who really has some pull." - Beatriz Perez, Senior Vice President of Integrated Marketing for Coca-Cola North America, cautioning that MMA advertisers have to be "very cognizant" of the potential reaction of certain sizable portions of their consumer base, particularly mothers.
* Jeffrey Pollack, Head of Harrah's Sports and CEO of the World Series of Poker, called MMA an "awesome phenomena" that Harrah's plans to get involved with.
Don't Think Of A Black Man
PokerWolf sent me this one.
I've never watched or listened to Glenn Beck, for what it's worth.
Too bad, Michigan and Florida
NEW YORK (CNN) -- What do these stories all have in common?
Glenn Beck: Florida and Michigan leaders have only themselves to blame if their delegates aren't seated.
# A woman who says she lost more $1 million gambling in Atlantic City sues some casinos for $20 million, claiming they should've stopped her compulsive gambling.
# People who bought houses they couldn't afford with loans they didn't understand want their lenders to change the terms.
# Congress authorizes a war and then tries everything it can think of to get out of it.
# Our country gets addicted to oil and then blames OPEC when it doesn't like the price.
These stories prove how personal responsibility has all but vanished in America, and our government is leading the way.
Remember the kid from that interminable 1980s commercial whose father caught him using drugs? The father incredulously asked, "Who taught you how to do this stuff?" and the kid responded, "You, alright? I learned it by watching you."
Well, we are that kid and our government is that drug-using father who doesn't think that anyone notices his bad habits.
Our government is leading us by example, and I don't mean that in a good way. For years, it has spent us into oblivion, mortgaging our future for programs we can't afford, and Americans have happily followed suit, running up credit card bills and home equity loans for things they never should've bought.
Unfortunately, we're also learning something else from our government: how to avoid taking responsibility for our actions.
From Eliot Spitzer's alleged hooker craze to the revelation that Arnold Schwarzenegger commutes to work in a large private jet even as he preaches the dangers of carbon dioxide emissions, there's never been a shortage of "do what I say, not what I do" hypocrites in politics.
But that same attitude has seemingly spread from individual politicians to an entire party.
Democrats aren't happy that delegates from Florida and Michigan won't be seated at the national convention because those states broke clear party rules. Well you know what? Too bad. We don't say that enough anymore. Too bad. You agreed to the rules; you broke them. Now you've got to deal with the consequences.
"But Glenn. ... Neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama will have enough delegates to win the nomination. We don't want this to be decided in some backroom by superdelegates."
"But Glenn. ... You don't understand. If we don't seat delegates from those states now, then we might lose their votes in the general election."
"But Glenn. .... The voters in these states are going to be disenfranchised if we don't let their voices be heard."
If you want to talk about disenfranchised voters, then let's talk about why just 17 percent of Americans have a positive view of Congress. Let's talk about why we still have wide open borders despite most Americans wanting them sealed. Let's talk about why we keep selling out our sovereignty and our security by borrowing billions of dollars from-less-than friendly countries, such as China.
Americans aren't disenfranchised because our leaders won't count votes in a couple of states. They're disenfranchised because our leaders aren't doing their jobs. They're disenfranchised because after working hard to support their families and to raise kids who understand the difference between right and wrong, their leaders do exactly the opposite.
In the cases of Florida and Michigan, I've patiently listened to all the moving arguments about why there should be a "do-over," but quite honestly, they're not arguments at all. They're excuses. If this race wasn't so close, or if these states offered a combined 36 delegates instead of 366, do you really think anyone would care? Of course not.
But no matter what you think should happen, you have to admit that Clinton's idea that we should simply count her "wins" in Florida and Michigan is completely ridiculous.
In fact, if you played a rimshot and a laugh track behind her every time she recited that line, people might actually agree to a two-drink minimum to see her speak. How could you possibly count the results from an election when your main opponent wasn't even on the ballot (at least in Michigan)? You can't -- unless you think the rules are simply there for your own amusement.
Last year, when the punishment against Florida was first approved, Donna Brazile, a member of the Democratic National Committee rules panel, said she hoped that the harsh consequences would "send a message to everybody in Florida that we are going to follow the rules." And Brazile knows a little something about that ... she ran Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000.
Voters in Florida and Michigan should ask themselves one important question before they blindly follow their party: Why did no one seem to care about "alienating" them last year when the rules were intentionally broken? It's only now, when their vote really matters, that everyone is suddenly so concerned about "enfranchising" them.
Florida and Michigan have a golden opportunity to stand up and say enough is enough, to send a message that it's time to not only take responsibility for their actions but for those of our leaders as well.
After all, what would it say about personal responsibility in this country if we allow the two states that broke all the rules to end up having the biggest say of all?
I guess sticking up my pic inspired GMoney to go through some of his old photo's.
And so he sent me a photo of his dad playing golf in LA with OJ Simpson, shortly after OJ's acquittal. For the record, his dad is on the right.
Nice Fantasia hat, OJ.
And just for the record, I'm going to go thru all the strange twisted photos I have saved up and will start posting them next week.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Obama Campaign Skewers Clinton E-mail Statement
Another exhibit of why NOT to vote for Hillary. Hoist of the Guinness to Stb.
I love pinball. And gambling.
Million Dollar Pinball: Part I
Found a few interesting Vegas articles in the RJ.
Las Vegas marks time to its own steady beat
Las Vegas is a town created on the notion of taking every natural or man-made obstacle in its path and crushing it like a Hummer saying "Howdy" to a one-legged jackrabbit.
Torrid heat. A lack of water. Even, cosmically enough, time itself.
Las Vegas always has had an uneasy, at times adversarial, relationship with time. We've blurred the line between night and day, subsist in an economy in which many workers never have a work "day" per se, and even today do all we can to make free-spending tourists forget whatever the clock might say.
And this editorial is from The Sun. Seems locals are concerned.
Killing the golden goose?
Casinos should be careful that nightclub operations don’t end up driving patrons away
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
From the AP:
Florida Dems weigh mail-in plan
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida's Democratic Party chair urged Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama, the national party and her own state's congressional delegation to consider a combined vote-by-mail/in-person plan as a redo of the Jan. 29 presidential primary.
The idea would be to mail ballots to all registered Democratic voters and set up 50 regional voting offices to help "disadvantaged communities" participate in an election ending June 3, state party Chairman Karen Thurman said in a memo to the campaigns and state and national party leaders.
Florida's nine Democratic congressmen voted Tuesday night to oppose a mail-in vote. Thurman urged them to reconsider.
"There is no question that we must move quickly to deal with the dispute over Florida's Democratic presidential primary. Fingers have been pointed in every direction, but how we arrived at this breaking point is irrelevant. The stark reality is that all Democrats lose if this is not resolved immediately," Thurman wrote in a memo that included a draft of the plan. A copy of the memo was obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.
Thurman asked party leaders to review the draft and send feedback by Friday. On Monday, if there is consensus that the party should go forward with the plan, it would begin raising the estimated $10 million to $12 million to pay for the do-over while also gathering public comment.
Democrats in Florida and Michigan have been scrambling to come up with alternatives to ensure their delegates will be seated at the national convention in Denver this summer. The Democratic National Committee punished the states for moving their primaries ahead of Feb. 5 and stripped them of all their delegates.
Clinton won Florida and Michigan, although she was the only major candidate on the ballot in Michigan.
"In my view there are two options — honor the results or hold new primary elections. I don't see any other solutions that are fair and honor the commitment that 2.5 million voters made in the Democratic primaries in those two states," Clinton said Wednesday.
Obama has said he is concerned about accuracy and fairness with a mail-in vote organized so quickly. Clinton's campaign has not commented on the mail-in option, except to say it will accept a do-over of the vote and "consider other scenarios as appropriate."
Obama told reporters Wednesday that his campaign is consulting with officials in Florida, Michigan and the DNC and he's confident something will be worked out.
"My bottom line is, I do want to make sure that the Florida and Michigan delegations have an opportunity to participate in the convention," he said. "And we want to figure out an equitable way to do that."
Michigan Democratic Party leaders were considering several options to get their delegates seated, including a mail-in vote or a state-run Democratic primary to be held in May or June and paid for by Democratic donors. The latter plan would have to get Republican lawmakers' approval and faces numerous other hurdles.
Despite the possible problems, four Michigan Democratic leaders uncommitted to any candidate plan to run the idea past the Obama and Clinton campaigns Thursday during separate talks. Democratic National Committee member Debbie Dingell, Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, Sen. Carl Levin and Ron Gettelfinger are in that group.
In Washington Wednesday, Sens. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Bill Nelson of Florida, both Clinton backers, spoke to a meeting of Clinton's national fundraising team. They said the issue of seating the delegation needed to be resolved, probably through a revote, according to a person who attended. The attendee said the senators discussed potential problems with a mail-in vote, even though Nelson favors one.
But members of Florida's congressional delegation said in a statement late Tuesday that they oppose such a step "or any redo of any kind."
Officials at the Democratic National Committee were working behind the scenes to get the Florida delegation to come together and agree on a solution so the delegates can be seated.
Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who backs Clinton, spoke to DNC Chairman Howard Dean and said the delegation will work with him on a solution. But she said she will not change her mind about a mail-in vote, in part because seniors who spend the summer up North, poor residents who rent homes and often move and others could be left out.
"This is totally experimental," she said, adding Florida voters have been shaken by past election problems, including the 2000 presidential recount, and need their confidence restored. "Having a party-run election that's never been done before is not a way to do that."
Clinton also told NPR in an interview that she believes the Michigan results are fair and should be honored even though Obama removed his name from the ballot.
"That was his choice, remember," she said. "There was no rule or requirement that he take his name off the ballot, and his supporters ran a very aggressive campaign to try to get people to vote uncommitted. So it wasn't that he didn't participate at all. In fact there was a real effort to get people to vote uncommitted, and I still won 55 percent of the vote."
In Florida, state Senate Democratic Leader Steve Geller dismissed the Florida House members' concerns and said the mail-in vote is the only reasonable way to seat the state's delegates.
"What is more unacceptable to me is our having no input at all, so if I have to choose between two bad choices, I'll choose the one that's least objectionable," Geller said.
The party would run the election, rather than the state. It would hire a private election management company, an accounting firm and security and would allow representatives from each campaign to observe. The state would be paid to verify ballot signatures.
Thurman also said the election would help the party's voter outreach efforts.
The idea is gaining ground because the race between Obama and Clinton is still unresolved.
Under party rules, Florida and Michigan would have until June 10 to hold another vote.
WTF. As someone just said after reading this:
I am speechless. I am without speech.
Girlfriend was physically stuck to the seat — her skin had grown around it
NESS CITY, Kan. - Deputies said a woman in western Kansas sat on her boyfriend's toilet for two years, and they're investigating whether she was mistreated.
Ness County Sheriff Bryan Whipple said a man called his office last month to report that something was wrong with his girlfriend.
Whipple said it appeared the 35-year-old Ness City woman’s skin had grown around the seat. She initially refused emergency medical services but was finally convinced by responders and her boyfriend that she needed to be checked out at a hospital.
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“We pried the toilet seat off with a pry bar and the seat went with her to the hospital,” Whipple said. “The hospital removed it.”
Whipple said investigators planned to present their report Wednesday to the county attorney, who will determine whether any charges should be filed against the woman's 36-year-old boyfriend.
“She was not glued. She was not tied. She was just physically stuck by her body,” Whipple said. “It is hard to imagine. ... I still have a hard time imagining it myself.”
He told investigators he brought his girlfriend food and water, and asked her every day to come out of the bathroom.
“And her reply would be, ‘Maybe tomorrow,”’ Whipple said. “According to him, she did not want to leave the bathroom.”
The boyfriend called police on Feb. 27 to report that “there was something wrong with his girlfriend,” Whipple said, adding that he never explained why it took him two years to call.
Police found the clothed woman sitting on the toilet, her sweat pants down to her mid-thigh. She was “somewhat disoriented,” and her legs looked like they had atrophied, Whipple said.
“She said that she didn’t need any help, that she was OK and did not want to leave,” he said.
She was taken to a hospital in Wichita, about 150 miles southeast of Ness City. Whipple said she has refused to cooperate with medical providers or law enforcement investigators.
Authorities said they did not know if she was mentally or physically disabled.
Police have declined to release the couple’s names, but the house where authorities say the incident happened is listed in public records as the residence of Kory McFarren. No one answered his home phone number.
The case has been the buzz in Ness City, said James Ellis, a neighbor.
“I don’t think anybody can make any sense out of it,” he said.
Ellis said he had known the woman since she was a child but that he had not seen her for at least six years.
He said she had a tough childhood after her mother died at a young age and apparently was usually kept inside the house as she grew up. At one time the woman worked for a long-term care facility, he said, but he did not know what kind of work she did there.
“It really doesn’t surprise me,” Ellis said of the bathroom incident. “What surprises me is somebody wasn’t called in a bit earlier.”
A few thoughts this morning.
Per my photo, I was told several times that I should have mentioned I was raised by Hal Holbrook. Ah well, my apologies.
I just read this rambling column by David Mamet in the Village Voice entitled: Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal'.
But then I realized my favorite lesbian feminist, Camille Paglia, had her new column up, which I can't help quoting here:
Hillary's race against time
Are Clinton's inept attack ads and faux-feminism enough? Can Obama learn to attack?
By Camille Paglia
Mar. 12, 2008 | Greetings from ground zero -- the Philadelphia suburbs where the epic battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton may be decided in Pennsylvania's Democratic primary on April 22. Current scuttlebutt -- a frail reed in this mercurial race -- is that the multiracial metropolises of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia will go for Obama, while the vast rural and small-town heartland will endorse Clinton, whose family roots are in coal-country Scranton.
I saw the first Hillary signs going up this week: a thin, white-haired, but very determined elderly lady was trying to wrestle one into the ground near zipping traffic on a county highway. I thought, "Hmm ... Hillary's demographic?" Obama is certainly a darling of youth, the wave of the future. If he has failed thus far to reach working-class whites, it's because he's a dewy and somewhat reserved newcomer on the national stage. Ruggedly stumping Hillary, warts and all, is a known commodity. Obama's effect has been heaviest on the information class -- journalists, academics and white-collar professionals chained to computers and surfing the Web all day. He's been a flickering media phenomenon for everyone except attendees at his electrifying mass rallies. What's militated against Obama is simply time. The more he is known, the bigger his gains.
Obama (for whom I intend to vote) has the patrician elegance of John F. Kennedy, but JFK also campaigned with the raucous bravura and taunting raillery of a Boston Irishman. (His grandfather, "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, had been mayor of Boston.) Obama has seemed tentative in countering the Clintons' trademark mudslinging, but perhaps coolness and poise are what the nation needs after eight years of George W. Bush's lurching braggadocio. Obama hasn't figured out how to stay classy while delivering wicked stiletto thrusts -- a talent mastered in spades by British politicians produced by the Oxbridge debate culture.
Hillary, her shrill voice much improved and lowered through brutal overstrain, has certainly gained confidence and performance skill on the campaign trail, but I still don't trust her. The arrogant, self-absorbed Clintons have shown their unscrupulous hand to all who have eyes to see. Yes, Hillary may know the labyrinthine flow chart of the Washington bureaucracy, but her peripheral experiences as a gallivanting first lady scarcely qualify her to be commander in chief. On the contrary, her constant resort to schmaltzy videos and cheap entertainment riffs ("The Sopranos," "Saturday Night Live") has been depressingly unpresidential. Is this how she would govern? All that canned "softening" of Hillary's image would have been unnecessary had she had greater personal resources to begin with. Her cutesy campaign has set a bad precedent for future women candidates, who should stand on their own as proponents of public policy.
Would I want Hillary answering the red phone in the middle of the night? No, bloody not. The White House first responder should be a person of steady, consistent character and mood -- which describes Obama more than Hillary. And that scare ad was produced with amazing ineptitude. If it's 3 a.m., why is the male-seeming mother fully dressed as she comes in to check on her sleeping children? Is she a bar crawler or insomniac? An obsessive-compulsive housecleaner, like Joan Crawford in "Mommie Dearest"? And why is Hillary sitting at her desk in full drag and jewelry at that ungodly hour? A president should not be a monomaniac incapable of rest and perched on guard all night like Poe's baleful raven. People at the top need a relaxed perspective, which gives judgment and balance. Workaholism is an introspection-killing disease, the anxious disability of tunnel-vision middle managers.
As for the Dems' hybrid "dream ticket" of Hillary and Obama, which Bill Clinton bumptiously declared "unstoppable," are they kidding? Sure, it might resolve a sticky wicket inside the party, but a ticket must be carefully crafted for maximum appeal in the general election. Whoever wins the nomination will need a vice-president who can shore up the leader's perceived weakness on military and national security issues. And besides, neither Hillary nor Obama, who are major divas, should ever be stashed in the V.P. micro-slot, which would humiliatingly limit their political mobility over future years. A V.P. should be deferential and lower wattage and never upstage the head of the ticket. Only a masochist or castrate would want to be Hillary's V.P. anyhow, since Bill would sit on him like a beanbag.
The cloud of feminist cant about Hillary's struggling candidacy has been noxious. "Media misogyny has reached an all-time high," screeched the National Organization for Women in a press release titled "Ignorance and Venom: The Media's Deeply Ingrained Sexism." Groan. If women are going to play in the geopolitical big league, they'd better toughen up and learn how to deal with all the curveballs. Never has the soppy emotionalism of old-guard feminist reasoning been on such open and embarrassing display. How has Hillary, who rode her husband's coattails to the top and who trashed every woman he seduced or assaulted, become such a feminist heroine? What has she ever achieved on her own -- aside from the fiasco of healthcare reform?
And if the media is treating Hillary in a gendered way, hasn't she herself constantly and cynically dramatized her embattled womanhood? It began with her snappish defense of her hangdog husband during the Gennifer Flowers imbroglio of 1992. Blame tail-chasing Bill, from Little Rock on, for sexualizing the popular perception of the Clintons. Nubile, exploited Monica Lewinsky will always hover around Hillary like ghostly baggage. Bill's serial abuses betray a profound ambivalence about and deep-seated hostility to women -- something the Clintons' giddy feminist flacks just don't see. Why was Hillary flying around the world to those 80 countries anyhow -- building her résumé while leaving her randy hubby unleashed? Anyone who thinks Bill's exploits are going to stop after Hillary is president has, well, a screw loose. New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's entrapment in a sex scandal is coming at a particularly inopportune moment for the Clintons, since it simply reminds everyone again of tawdry, furtive, high-placed adultery.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
"Jacob Weisberg of Slate called it “the best TV show ever broadcast in America.” The New York Times, in an editorial (not a review, mind you) called the show Dickensian.
The argument over whether "The Wire" is the best show on television needs only two other participants -- also from HBO -- in the form of "The Sopranos" and "Deadwood." Rather than split hairs, let's just say that the breadth and ambition of "The Wire" are unrivaled and that taken cumulatively over the course of a season -- any season -- it's an astonishing display of writing, acting and storytelling that must be considered alongside the best literature and filmmaking in the modern era.
If you're not interested in "The Wire" after that, Godspeed to your unexamined life. That said, expecting the series to be simple, easy or unchallenging is a ridiculous notion. And we speak of it no more."
This is all spoiler-free.
If only one of you picks up Season One DVD of The Wire and begins the journey, I'll have done my duty.
Take a chance on one of the most important TV shows ever made.
And by important, I mean awesome.
Snippets of reviews follow:
It's a piece of angry social criticism built for a time when order and happy endings are just another form of denial.
This unwillingness to soothe and pander to viewers is visible at every level of "The Wire," from its jagged and dense narrative style to the coded language that its street characters use. The show fights against TV's habit of making the viewer's experience easy, so that we can track a story line without concentrating, or so that we can go to bed feeling that the war against hard drugs is gaining ground.
This is a show that is so very good - and so very real at a time when reality TV is fake - precisely because it runs completely contrary to viewers' taste for escapism. "The Wire" takes the hard road into American urbania. We can follow it if we want, although most of us won't.
It's not Simon who should worry that people won't watch his show because it's difficult. It's viewers who should worry that they are missing the absolute best of what television has to offer merely because it requires effort.
Over the course of its first three seasons, "The Wire" on HBO has been one of the great achievements in television artistry, a novelistic approach to storytelling in a medium that rewards quick, decisive and clear storytelling. It has never flinched from ambition -- dissecting a troubled American city, Baltimore, as well as and certainly more truly than any history book could have. It has tackled the drug war in this country as it simultaneously explores race, poverty and "the death of the American working class," the failure of political systems to help the people they serve and the tyranny of lost hope. Few series in the history of television have explored the plight of inner-city African Americans and none -- not one -- has done it as well.
On the off chance that you need to be reminded, this is not "Desperate Housewives."
And yet, the curse of "The Wire" and the thing that makes its creator, David Simon, nearly apoplectic, is the notion that "The Wire" is difficult and dense and hard to follow if you haven't been there from the start. Simon, perhaps the best writer in all of television -- a label one should not toss around lightly -- has a point when he jokingly suggests that critics who love the series should temper the part about it being difficult to jump into. That scares away viewers. It makes people believe he's forcing them to eat their vegetables on a cable channel that offers brilliance in other packages, some of them a whole lot easier to swallow -- like "Entourage," for example.
And yet the hard truth about "The Wire" is it isn't easy. You really must start from the very beginning to understand this work of art.
But then, "The Wire" is a show that's always a few steps ahead of your expectations. There are so many characters involved that you haven't always watched the dynamic play out between the same few characters a million times before. Simon, a former reporter for the Baltimore Sun, mines his experiences in mapping out a vivid, interconnected world that feels so realistic yet so unfamiliar, it makes most cops-and-mobbers programs look like cartoons by comparison.
Simon can push the envelope with his characters because, with all their flaws, they feel as real as the environment they inhabit. While most procedural dramas feature a different case each week, "The Wire" focuses on just one criminal case over the course of 12 episodes, widening its scope to include a multitude of characters and story lines so the net result feels like a novel or a symphony. In each episode, the population of "The Wire" seems to move in harmony like a beehive, hustling, chitchatting, intimidating each other, giving each other shit, cracking eggs into beers and calling it breakfast, avoiding work or looking for work, pulling scams and pulling strings. These aren't good people or bad people, and they're no more charismatic or funny or special than anyone you know. They're believable. The dialogue is strange, snappy, anecdotal and sometimes (often, actually) pretty tough to follow, but it all feels organic.
Even after the great storytelling and amazing performances, there are so many other things to like about this show, it's tough to know where to begin. I like that the female cops on the show have such an understated rapport with their male co-workers. Even on shows as good as "NYPD Blue," the female cops tend to be coy and dolled up. Simon's female characters hold their ground, joke around without being cute and command real respect and friendship from their peers.
I like that a kaleidoscope of different cultures and attitudes is reflected, from union laborers to Greek criminals to Catholic priests to gay drug dealers, but the writers don't sugarcoat or hand-hold -- the characters talk about each other in openly racist terms. Anyone who's familiar with hard-bitten industrial towns of the Northeast, where there are five different Catholic churches, two Jewish temples, a Pentecostal storefront and, these days, a mosque within a few blocks of each other, knows that this is how many immigrants explain their differences. I like that the cops openly dislike and harass each other in a less than good-natured way, that the show is set in Baltimore and not L.A. or New York, that there's so much humor laced into even the heaviest scenes.
Most of all, it's exciting that TV dramas are getting this good. "The Wire" might be too slow-paced and complicated for a lot of viewers -- it's no "24," after all. But it's gratifying to watch this series captain a whole new exploration of the form, leaving the standard conventions of episodic television flailing in its wake. If, after watching this series, a TV drama starts to look like a haiku, it's because "The Wire" is, by comparison, an epic poem. Like "The Odyssey," "The Wire" invites us into a world that's complex yet harmonious, darkly imaginative and, above all, deeply human.
When television history is written, little else will rival "The Wire," a series of such extraordinary depth and ambition that it is, perhaps inevitably, savored only by an appreciative few. Layering each season upon the previous ones, creator David Simon conveys the decaying infrastructure of his hometown Baltimore in searing and sobering fashion -- constructing a show that's surely as impenetrable to the uninitiated as it is intoxicating to the faithful. In its fourth year, the program adds the school system to cops, drugs, unions, the ailing middle class, and big-city politics.
Prepare to be depressed and dazzled.
The Wire revels in its realistic portrayal of police, criminals, unions, the education system, and politics and how the dividing line between all these aforementioned elements a thin and vague thing, subject to ebb and flow. It is unique to find a show take such fierce pride in being complex and realistic, even at the cost of its viewing audience. Critical acclimation is all well and good, but it does not always translate into strong ratings.
The fan base the show does have is voracious and passionate, but small in number due in large part to the show's complex presentation and the creator's refusal to dumb down its subject for the sake of ratings. Here is a show that, unless you have seen every single episode three or four times over the subtle nuances of character development, story arcs, and political machinations will elude you. Step up to go to the washroom for thirty seconds, and wham—you're out of the loop. The show pulls no punches, takes no easy roads, and never wavers from its dedication to show Baltimore in all its forms, good and bad, glamorous and horrifying, and the rotting dystopia that creeps up from the cracks of its institutions.
The character development and plot lines in The Wire put conventional programs to shame. The massive, multicultural ensemble cast of characters here is more lifelike, more sincere and flawed and messed up and perpetually unscrupulous than any others on television. Nothing they say or do is contrived or contrary to their nature. Rather than having a script of events laid out and writing the characters to fit within the story, The Wire succeeds at creating organic, flawed characters, lovable and loathsome in equal quantities and crafts story arcs that fit within their experiences and decisions. Every decision, every course of events is perfectly in line with the characters involved.
This show takes investment in both time, money, and brainpower. It is not a casual show, in the worst sense of the word. You can forget about trying to get into the show at some arbitrary point, like catching a rerun on television. It might as well be in Hungarian for all your ability to appreciate its plot twists and character pitfalls on the fly. Do not even try.
No, the only way is to sit down with The Wire: The Complete First Season on DVD, followed in rapid succession by The Wire: The Complete Second Season and The Wire: The Complete Third Season, and then to re-watch the entire affair again a second time to pick up all you missed. Seventy-two hours and $180 later, you'll be ready for this set.
"It is the most natural and realistic feeling show on television today, and embarrasses the hell out of everything else in its genre. Trying to watch a similarly themed show like Law & Order after spending some time in Baltimore with The Wire is like getting a root canal in your brain."
My point is this: while Hollywood has bravely set about the business of making the finest movies based on breakfast cereals ever made, Simon and his collaborators have hoisted the medium of film onto their backs and marched it into the territory previously inhabited by Tolstoy, Melville and Dickens, the greatest of the long-form storytellers.
It's not an easy show. Don't blame me if you don't get it.
Bonus Code IGGY on Party Poker, damnit!
Hey now, I'm back with my main man, Johnny Hughes, unique take on politics and poker.
Poker Players and Politics
by Johnny Hughes, author of the poker novel, Texas Poker Wisdom.
As Iggy is fond of pointing out, this is a boffo, big-time political year, with a real horse race in the Democratic party and another horse race in the Fall.
Get involved. Pick a candidate or a party and hang around the headquarters. Go to a vote count watching party. Meet the politicos. Why, you say? I could be playing poker online, you say. Again, no opportunity like the next few months will come around for a long time. Get involved for what it can do for you, old numero uno at all times. Political volunteers are a classless group where the usual divisions or rank, age, and income that usually divide us are supposedly absent. Politics is the ultimate vehicle for networking or getting laid.
Being a political volunteer is a terrific way to meet the rich and powerful, potential mentors. In 1968, I had my first job. Everybody around Lubbock, especially the police, knew me as a gambler with a minor and humorous arrest record. First time I went to jail was at 14. Me and a pal each set off a string of firecrackers right at New Year's Eve inside the largest, fanciest movie house in town. We were arrested right on the front row, a great honor.
In 1968, Humphrey was against Nixon, excitement like today. I'd dress fancy and hang around. I attracted the attention of the second richest lady in our part of West Texas. Her sister was the richest. After the Democratic defeat, she sent me to Denver for a re-building meeting of all the factions that were posing as a party. It was wild with Chicano, Black, Native American caucuses with loads of demands. When I got back we huddled with a couple of other liberal old ladies. When she asked me how much money she should give, I said, "I wouldn't give these fruitcakes a plug nickel." She loved that and we became close over the years.
Helen Jones became my mentor and protector for decades after that. She owned, with her sister, the Mallet Land and Cattle Company, 53,000 acres, which was in four Texas counties. It had 1100 oil wells. If everyone drilling for oil in America hit a well right now, the Mallet would have more oil wells than that. Millions poured in. She gave away many millions. Her trust and her sister's are still the largest donors around long after their deaths.
She let me drive her Cadillacs any time I needed one and use the pool. Helen graduated from Berkley in 1921. She was sharp and powerful. I was her occasional messenger to politicians and lawyers. When I slipped on to the faculty of Texas Tech, it was Helen Jones that kept me there. She donated directly to my department for awhile, but she donated buildings and wings to the Museum and millions and millions. She made a great friend for me.
You need to meet those powerful mentors if you are around the age of the folks I met at the Blogger's convention. You might slip into some dynamite home games, better job opportunities, or just plain fun. The key term in Democratic Party is Party! There is something about a passionate political race that naturally makes the women folk horny.
You should wear some poker identification such as a Full Tilt hat over to the party headquarters. Politics is a great way to meet the folks you need to meet.
It doesn't hurt for a gambler to know some powerful elected officials
I need a favor!! Do you know someone that want's a puppy?
My neighbor has a puppy he's giving away (FREE!).
It's a Dachshund, it's house broken, and it's great with kids.
He's giving it away because his wife says the dog 'stares' at her when she is undressing and that gives her the 'Heebie Jeebies'.
If you're interested, or know someone who is, let me know.
From today's Weekly Standard:
She will stop at nothing to win the nomination.
By Myrna Blyth
Hillary Clinton has earned the accolade “She Who Will Not Be Denied.” Relentless as one of the Furies in her pursuit of the nomination, she bears a remarkable resemblance to the ancient female avengers; determined to punish those who dare to upset her moral order, she mimics, rather closely, the anger, the jealousy, and the avenger of murder. And for Hillary, the appropriate moral order, of course, is a Clinton nomination, followed by a Clinton II presidency (which, sad to say, may be a viable possibility once again).
Perhaps, Samantha Power was thinking of Hillary’s Fury-like style when, in her interview in the Scotsman, she called Hilary “a monster” who is “stooping to anything.” Poor, naïve, Pulitzer Prize winning, Harvard Professor Samantha must have thought telling a British newspaper a juicy comment was “off the record,” would keep it “off the record.” It is decades since the subject of her tirade was that naïve.
Also back on public display are Hillary’s marvelous shape-shifting abilities. Since the beginning of the campaign, we have seen shifts from the Commander-in-Chief Hillary to the teary Victim Hillary. But in just the last ten days, we’ve watched:
Hillary gracious: “I am so honored to be sitting on this stage with Barack Obama.”
Hillary resigned: “And you know, whatever happens, we’ll be fine.”
Hillary school-marmish: “Shame on you, Barack Obama!”
Hillary feisty: “I am in the solution business, my opponent is in the promises business.”
And Hillary exultant: “We’re going on, we’re going strong, and we’re going all the way.”
So in just a couple of weeks she’s traversed, far and wide, the emotional and behavioral map — even flirting with the notion of a highly unlikely Clinton-Obama ticket. In her Mississippi speeches, even her accent seemed to change, as she morphed from the blue-collar Ohio worker to the wife of the kind of guy who can host a fish-fry in Tupelo. (Wonder if Big Bill did his Elvis imitation for the hometown folks.)
So what’s Obama to do? Currently, he seems a bit uncertain, rather like a guy who complains to his buddies that he doesn’t understand the woman in his life because she is always changing what she wants (she even wants him now!). Against such mood swings, his elegance and coolness are both his greatest strengths and his greatest weaknesses. It is hard to stay above-it-all when your opponent will bite, and scratch, stoop, and stoop again.
But, even as he figures out how to attack without stooping, he still has a considerable advantage (aside from his superior delegate count): he and the Democratic elders know that the African-American voters and the enthusiastic newbies that he has brought into the caucuses will sit on their hands election day if “She Who Will Not Be Denied” denies him the nomination, especially in some conniving Clintonesque way. It is clear he is a harbinger of the future. And, as important as his supporters, he has the untouchable advantage of his own youthfulness. Hillary can switch campaign styles as frequently as the color of her pantsuits but there is no doubt that a McCain/Clinton election would lack the freshness and youthful vigor of the alternative; Hillary is, quite simply, not new.
Reporters on the campaign trail have noted that Bill Clinton now looks old, and that both he and Hillary realize this is their last chance to return to power to enhance his shaky legacy. As free-talking Samantha Power noted, they will do anything to further their ambition and achieve their goals, and that just might include fracturing their own party. Remember, during Clinton’s presidency the Democrats lost Congress and a pack of governorships — but the First Couple never seemed to care all that much, as long as their poll numbers were favorable. One strategy Obama might consider is using Hillary’s own political savvy against her. Regarding her vote for Republican candidates in past elections, Hillary has said: “Fool me once, shame on you! Fool me twice, shame on me.” Obama would do well to remind voters that they’ve been fooled by a Clinton before.
Wow, I've been waiting for this news. The big poker club in Dayton, which I used to play at fairly regularly, back in the day, finally got busted.
From the Dayton Daily News:
West Carrollton police conduct 3 illegal gambling raids
West Carrollton Deputy Police Chief Doug Woodard said Saturday's illegal gambling raids on two Fraternal Order of the Orioles sites, one in West Carrollton and one in Medway, and at the Clayton residence of the operator of both clubs, was directed by West Carrollton police with the help of a conglomeration of other law enforcement agencies.
"Our detectives were the lead agency," Woodard said. At about 1:30 p.m. Saturday, March 1, officers from the Tactical Crime Suppression Unit (Germantown, Kettering, Centerville, Moraine, Miamisburg, Oakwood, Springboro and West Carrollton), Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, Clark County Sheriff's Office, Perry, Clay and German Twp. Police Departments, and the Ohio Attorney Generals Office "simultaneously conducted five search warrants," four in Montgomery County and one in Clark County," Woodard said.
The warrants were the culmination of a six-month investigation into illegal gambling, racketeering, money laundering, and federal income tax violations throughout southwest Ohio, he said.
No arrests were made, but "it is anticipated that several subjects will be charged," he said. The charges will be up to the assistant U.S. Attorney General and the IRS, he said.
Woodard said search warrants were issued for three locations: the Fraternal Order of the Orioles in the 800 block of Watertower Lane in West Carrollton; the Fraternal Order of the Orioles at 10955 Lower Valley Pike, Medway, in Clark County; and the home of the operator of the two facilities at 6470 Wellbaum Ave., Clayton. He was just pulling up to his home when officers arrived and he cooperated with them, Woodard said. Evidence relating to the illegal gambling operations was gathered from the home, he said.
A variety of illegal gambling paraphernalia was confiscated from the clubs, including gaming tables, cards and chips, Woodard said. He said the operations appeared to involve mostly high stakes card games. About 75 patrons, "young, old, male, female," were interviewed at the West Carrollton club and about a half dozen patrons at the Medway club, he said. Two of the five search warrants were for the club operator's vehicles, he said.
Lord G is alive and well.
And he's dealing!
Just in case you didn't read the Elliot Spitzer - hooker documents, head on over to the Smoking Gun to do so.
Monday, March 10, 2008
I was all set to unleash my uber on The Wire and perhaps even my screed about Absolute Poker.
And Lord knows I have some David Sklansky - Mason Malmuth bloggy goodness.
But I'm truly bummed out right now. And blown away.
EDIT - Lord G is alive and well!
I repeat - alive and well.
Ultimate Bet finally fesses to online cheating at their poker site. Bout freaking time.
ULTIMATEBET INTERIM STATEMENT
Montreal, Canada (March 6, 2008) – UltimateBet (UB), one of the ten largest online poker cardrooms, today issued the following interim statement with respect to allegations of unfair play on its site.
“On January 12, 2008, UltimateBet was alerted to allegations that a player with the online handle “NioNio” exhibited abnormally high winning statistics and was accused of having an unfair advantage during play. These allegations were made both directly to UltimateBet by concerned players and the KGC, and indirectly through several web forums. The allegations also included reports of suspicious activity concerning the deletion of the NioNio account and other accounts that may have been related to this scheme.
“We immediately launched an extensive inquiry involving an independent third-party expert to review hundreds of thousands of hand histories, all of which were promptly locked down and made available to this expert. The initial findings of our third-party expert confirm that the NioNio account’s winning statistics were indeed abnormal, and we have expanded the investigation to look into whether an unfair advantage existed, how such a scheme might have been perpetrated, and whether additional accounts beyond those of NioNio were involved.
“UltimateBet is in regular communications and contact with its regulatory authority, The Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC), and will continue to cooperate fully with that body.
“UltimateBet is determined to complete a full and thorough investigation. We pride ourselves on providing a safe, secure playing environment for our customers. The investigation has proven to be extremely complex and, therefore, has been more extensive and taken much longer than initially expected. We continue to aggressively pursue the matter and will communicate the findings of our full investigation to our regulatory authority and to our customer base as soon as practicable.”
The wise and always alert, MeneGene, tipped me off to the announcement that 60 Minutes is looking into doing a piece on the Absolute Poker scandal.
You can read this on Nat's poker blog.
As promised, here is the first ever published photo of myself, with then Arkansas Governor, Bill Clinton circa 1979. Notice my dad protecting my sister (complete with Dorothy Hamill haircut) from the lecherous Clinton.
This photo is cropped - the full image has a hilarious framed photo of Hillary on the mantle.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Bonus Code IGGY on Party Poker
My man, Bobby Bracelet, sent me this strange follow-up video to the midget one I posted a few weeks ago.
His favorite part is about 40 seconds in, right when you least expect it, the thing starts doing some hip thrusts.
And to think I spent all afternoon on YouTube watching hockey fights.
The last episode of The Wire is tonight. I'm simultaneously thrilled and filled with dread on how they are going to end things.
I'll say it again, this is arguably the best show ever put on television. A 66 hour film is how creator David Simon puts it. I'll get a tribute post up tonight or tomorrow.
For now, here's an interesting piece from the New Republic per Hillary:
Hillary Clinton, Fratricidal Maniac
The morning after Tuesday's primaries, Hillary Clinton's campaign released a memo titled "The Path to the Presidency." I eagerly dug into the paper, figuring it would explain how Clinton would obtain the Democratic nomination despite an enormous deficit in delegates. Instead, the memo offered a series of arguments as to why Clinton should run against John McCain - i.e., "Hillary is seen as the one who can get the job done" - but nothing about how she actually could. Is she planning a third-party run? Does she think Obama is going to die? The memo does not say.
The reason it doesn't say is that Clinton's path to the nomination is pretty repulsive. She isn't going to win at the polls. Barack Obama has a lead of 144 pledged delegates. That may not sound like a lot in a 4,000-delegate race, but it is. Clinton's Ohio win reduced that total by only nine. She would need 15 more Ohios to pull even with Obama. She isn't going to do much to dent, let alone eliminate, his lead.
That means, as we all have grown tired of hearing, that she would need to win with superdelegates. But, with most superdelegates already committed, Clinton would need to capture the remaining ones by a margin of better than two to one. And superdelegates are going to be extremely reluctant to overturn an elected delegate lead the size of Obama's. The only way to lessen that reluctance would be to destroy Obama's general election viability, so that superdelegates had no choice but to hand the nomination to her. Hence her flurry of attacks, her oddly qualified response as to whether Obama is a Muslim ("not as far as I know"), her repeated suggestions that John McCain is more qualified.
Clinton's justification for this strategy is that she needs to toughen up Obama for the general election-if he can't handle her attacks, he'll never stand up to the vast right-wing conspiracy. Without her hazing, warns the Clinton memo, "Democrats may have a nominee who will be a lightening rod of controversy." So Clinton's offensive against the likely nominee is really an act of selflessness. And here I was thinking she was maniacally pursuing her slim thread of a chance, not caring - or possibly even hoping, with an eye toward 2012 - that she would destroy Obama's chances of defeating McCain in the process. I feel ashamed for having suspected her motives.
Still, there are a few flaws in Clinton's trial-by-smear method. The first is that her attacks on Obama are not a fair proxy for what he'd endure in the general election, because attacks are harder to refute when they come from within one's own party. Indeed, Clinton is saying almost exactly the same things about Obama that McCain is: He's inexperienced, lacking in substance, unequipped to handle foreign policy. As The Washington Monthly's Christina Larson has pointed out, in recent weeks the nightly newscasts have consisted of Clinton attacking Obama, McCain attacking Obama, and then Obama trying to defend himself and still get out his own message. If Obama's the nominee, he won't have a high-profile Democrat validating McCain's message every day.
Second, Obama can't "test" Clinton the way she can test him. While she likes to claim that she beat the Republican attack machine, it's more accurate to say that she survived with heavy damage. Clinton is a wildly polarizing figure, with disapproval ratings at or near 50 percent. But, because she earned the intense loyalty of core Democratic partisans, Obama has to tread gingerly around her vulnerabilities. There is a big bundle of ethical issues from the 1990s that Obama has not raised because he can't associate himself with what partisan Democrats (but not Republicans or swing voters) regard as a pure GOP witch hunt.
What's more, Clinton has benefited from a favorable gender dynamic that won't exist in the fall. (In the Democratic primary, female voters have outnumbered males by nearly three to two.) Clinton's claim to being a tough, tested potential commander-in-chief has gone almost unchallenged. Obama could reply that being First Lady doesn't qualify you to serve as commander-in-chief, but he won't quite say that, because feminists are an important chunk of the Democratic electorate. John McCain wouldn't be so reluctant.
Third, negative campaigning is a negative-sum activity. Both the attacker and the attackee tend to see their popularity drop. Usually, the victim's popularity drops farther than the perpetrator's, which is why negative campaigning works. But it doesn't work so well in primaries, where the winner has to go on to another election.
Clinton's path to the nomination, then, involves the following steps: kneecap an eloquent, inspiring, reform-minded young leader who happens to be the first serious African American presidential candidate (meanwhile cementing her own reputation for Nixonian ruthlessness) and then win a contested convention by persuading party elites to override the results at the polls. The plan may also involve trying to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations, after having explicitly agreed that the results would not count toward delegate totals. Oh, and her campaign has periodically hinted that some of Obama's elected delegates might break off and support her. I don't think she'd be in a position to defeat Hitler's dog in November, let alone a popular war hero.
Some Clinton supporters, like my friend (and historian) David Greenberg, have been assuring us that lengthy primary fights go on all the time and that the winner doesn't necessarily suffer a mortal wound in the process. But Clinton's kamikaze mission is likely to be unusually damaging. Not only is the opportunity cost - to wrap up the nomination, and spend John McCain into the ground for four months - uniquely high, but the venue could not be less convenient. Pennsylvania is a swing state that Democrats will almost certainly need to win in November, and Clinton will spend seven weeks and millions of dollars there making the case that Obama is unfit to set foot in the White House. You couldn't create a more damaging scenario if you tried.
Imagine in 2000, or 2004, that George W. Bush faced a primary fight that came down to Florida (his November must-win state). Imagine his opponent decided to spend seven weeks pounding home the theme that Bush had a dangerous plan to privatize Social Security. Would this have improved Bush's chances of defeating the Democrats? Would his party have stood for it?
I typically only watch American Idol in the beginning, to watch the car wrecks and insane people trying to get on TV. I love freaks, it's true.
And so I was doing a little reading over at Television Without Pity and found this wonderful rant about the whole show that I thought I'd pass along.
Simon Cowell speaks with the authority of dollars. It is not in Simon's interest to tell us that we are better, on the mean, than we are. When Simon says "people" will think something or "people" will assume something, he's not making a judgment on you or me, he's making an aggregate statement of fact. "People" means a specific self-identified group of people whose money talks. If you're reading this? You are not "people." He is not talking shit about you as an American, for example, if he says "people" will be confused by the fact that you're singing a classically Whitney song. He's not even really talking shit, he's just saying: "There are people who will be confused by the fact that you're singing a classically Whitney [or thus classically female] song. And those are the people that -- sorry, internet -- matter." There's no judgment in it: not for the singer, not for the song, not for the audience and not for us, here, talking now. There's a difference between thinking and feeling, and it really seems to trip us up when it comes to Simon. Simon doesn't care about truth or souls or spirits or the nature of our innate talent.
The music industry, and thus Simon's version of American Idol, does not follow The Harry Potter Model of Imaginary Folk Tales, in which a person's innate wonderfulness or secret gift is what gets them famous. Simon has never once uttered a qualitative opinion in the history of the show: he talks about quantitative facts, his opinion about marketing and salability. If you want to be famous and make lots of money, ask Simon. If you want to feel special and like the only magical girl in the world that can talk to dragons and unicorns, by all means talk to Paula.
But only one of them is going to tell you which rough edges to rub off in order to make boatloads of cash. If you're attempting this show -- or watching it -- in the hopes of playing out the Paula narrative ("some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this"), the show is going to do its best to sell you that vision: FANT ASIA will come back and perform, the hideous undead shade of Clay Aiken will stay a virgin forever, Elliott's melting teeth will get veneers and we'll all live happy ever after. The show needs you to believe the Paula narrative, because it's the reason we watch: we all secretly know that if Simon, Paula, and Randy were sitting in our bathrooms and heard us singing in the shower, they'd start spontaneously crying and give us a check. However, the show is duty bound by physics and the supply/demand curve to simultaneously follow the Simon narrative, which is: lose some weight, cut that hair, sing your heart out, walk the line between total cliché and total rebellion, be good enough but not too good, that you land in the middle group, where all the money is.
It's Super Tuesday all over again. Simon says the real world is full of hard choices and corporate imperatives: our duty is to stay fast to the straight, hard line of reality, even if it costs us, because victory depends on truth and not hope. Paula says the entire point of dreams is making them come true; that the real world results inexorably from the choices that we make, and that by positing unlimited potential, we can get better and better every second of every day.
Experience and change, change and experience. But what the show demands is not a smart median between those two narratives, but an impossible cataclysmic simultaneity of both; the journey from auditions to Chair to Semis to Finals to crowning is just a competition to see who can best embody both narratives simultaneously.
Every elimination and every weird moment is an expression of the tension between those two stories, and no less for the viewing audience, who is asked to constantly shuttle between those two viewpoints. Are we voting for Jason or David A. because they're implicitly, Harry Potter-ishly special? Or are we voting for the various Simon favorites because Simon's right, and they're what sells? And who do we fight with when we can't resolve those opposites except each other?
When the whole show comes down to Tyra Banks endlessly eating her own tail and being eaten, consumer-as-consumer-as-consumer, I don't know that we can really blame ourselves for the resulting craziness. It's too much responsibility at once, but it's also addictively no responsibility at all -- total power as a voter and fan, zero power as a consumer of product; having those competing visions sold and told to us again and again every single week -- which is why it's the biggest show on TV and probably always will be.
Luckily, this is just entertainment, and not politics, so either way we win. Because what a fucking circus.
Hot off the AP. Hoist of the Guinness to ScottMc.
Compulsive Gambler Files $20M Suit Against Casinos
Minnesota Woman Names Several Atlantic City, Las Vegas Casinos In Lawsuit
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) ― She was an ambitious lawyer and TV commentator who starting going to Atlantic City casinos to relax, and soon was getting high-roller treatment that included limousines whisking her to the resort.
Arelia Margarita Taveras says she was even allowed to bring her dog, Sasha, to the blackjack tables, sitting in her purse.
But her gambling spun out of control: She said she would go days at a time at the tables, not eating or sleeping, brushing her teeth with disposable wipes so she didn't have to leave.
She says her losses totaled nearly $1 million.
Now she's chasing the longest of long shots: a $20 million racketeering lawsuit in federal court against six Atlantic City casinos and one in Las Vegas, claiming they had a duty to notice her compulsive gambling problem and cut her off.
"They knew I was going for days without eating or sleeping," Taveras said. "I would pass out at the tables. They had a duty of care to me. Nobody in their right mind would gamble for four or five straight days without sleeping."
Experts say her case will be difficult to prove, but it provides an unusually detailed window into the life of a problem gambler.
"It's like crack, only gambling is worse than crack because it's mental," said Taveras, 37, a New Yorker who now lives in Minnesota. "It creeps up on you, the impulse. It's a sickness."
She lost her law practice, her apartment, her parents' home, and owes the IRS $58,000. She said she even considered swerving into oncoming traffic to kill herself.
In interviews with The Associated Press, Taveras admitted she dipped into her clients' escrow accounts to finance her gambling habit. She was disbarred last June, and faces criminal charges stemming from those actions, but is trying to work out restitution agreements in order to avoid a prison term.
Her lawsuit names Resorts Atlantic City, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, the Tropicana Casino Resort, the Showboat Casino Hotel, Bally's Atlantic City, as well as the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
The casinos deny any wrongdoing, maintaining in court papers that Taveras brought her problems on herself. Casino representatives either declined to comment for this report or did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Last month, a judge dismissed the Trump casinos, the Tropicana, Showboat and Bally's from the lawsuit on technical grounds, but allowed Taveras to refile the suit against them by April. The suit remains in effect against Resorts and MGM because its allegations against them were more specific.
Joe Corbo, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, said casino workers undergo extensive training on spotting problem gamblers and referring them to help, including a self-exclusion list the state maintains. Gamblers can voluntarily bar themselves from casinos, either for a few years or for life. While they're on the list, casinos cannot solicit them.
Dan Heneghan, a spokesman for the state Casino Control Commission, said 663 people are on the list.
"This can be a delicate situation, and it comes down to an individual's personal responsibility," Corbo said. "We can only suggest that they receive assistance and provide information how they can obtain help, but it is up to them to commit to seek it."
Paul O'Gara, an attorney specializing in Atlantic City gambling issues, said it will be difficult for Taveras to prove that the casinos knew she had a problem but ignored it.
"How are you supposed to know whether this was a woman who was just having a good time, or had money and was just lonely, as opposed to someone who couldn't control themselves?" he said.
Arnie Wexler, the former head of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, estimates there are 5 million problem gamblers in the United States, with 15 million at risk of becoming compulsive.
"Hers is not a rare case, believe me," said Wexler, who says he had a gambling problem. "This is the most powerful addiction you can have without putting something into your body. You remember your first big win, and you think `Hey, I can do this again; I can get it all back.'"
As a young lawyer, Taveras made a name for herself representing the families of victims of American Airlines Flight 587, which crashed in New York City's borough of Queens in November 2001, killing 265 people.
Her practice had 400 clients and earned her $500,000 a year. She appeared on TV and radio to discuss legal issues, wrote a guidebook for women dealing with deadbeat dads in the court system, titled "The Gangsta Girls' Guide To Child Support," and was a regular contributor to Hispanic culture Web sites. In 2000, the New York Daily News named her one of "21 New Yorkers to Watch in the 21st Century."
As an escape from the seven-day-a-week pressures of her law practice, she started going to Atlantic City to unwind in September 2003.
During one five-day gambling jag at Resorts in June 2005, Taveras says, she existed on nothing but orange juice and Snickers bars that the staff gave her. On the fifth day, she said, a dealer told her to go home because she appeared exhausted and unable to keep track of her cards.
Taveras spent nearly a year in clinics to treat her gambling addiction. She filed her lawsuit last September, representing herself, and is now working at a telephone call center in Minnesota.
"Everybody says `You gambled and you enjoyed yourself, then lost your money and now you want it back,'" Taveras said. "They think gambling is fun. It isn't, believe me. Not when you get like I did."
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